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Monday 18.12.2017 | Name days: Klinta, Kristaps, Kristofers, Krists
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BNN summary of the week: oligarchs in politics, people’s elected president, and Baltic growth

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RUBNN offers a summary of this week’s topical news in a variety of categories: Fight; Business; Decline; Change; Growth; and Opinion.

CHANGE: Legal Affairs Committee supports open election of state president

On Monday, 29 November, the majority of members of Saeima’s Legal Affairs Committee supported the initiative proposing open election of the state president by members of the parliament.

Members of To Latvia from the Heart and the Union of Greens and Farmers voted against this initiative.

This makes it one of the possible proposals for amendments to the Constitution to be discussed by a responsible work group. The committee decided to form such a work group to discuss amendments to the Constitution and study the possibilities of gaining the majority of votes in the Saeima.

The work group will include delegated representatives from all factions. It will have to provide its conclusions before the middle of March.

As it is known, Latvian politicians have different opinions about the possibility of electing the state president through an open vote.

Full article here

FIGHT: healthcare funding regulations will not motivate people to pay social tax

Regulations included in the healthcare funding legislative draft will not motivate residents to pay taxes, said representative of Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Ingrīda Circene in an interview to Latvijas Radio.

She believes a good idea is ruined by a piece of regulation that will make residents pay fees equal to 1% of minimal monthly wages in exchange for full basket of medical services.

As an example, she mentions that statistical data show that the hourly rate of a concrete mixer is EUR 7. To receive a full basket of medical services, a concrete mixes has to work an average of 33 minutes a month.

Circene believes that under a fair tax system, all residents able to work would have to pay social tax from minimal wage. Only under such conditions will it be possible for residents to receive all services included in the medical services basket.

On Thursday, 30 November, the Saeima will discuss the healthcare funding legislative draft developed to improve funding for healthcare and the sector’s longevity.

Healthcare Ministry’s developed draft states that 4% of GDP will be allocated for healthcare in 2020.

Full article here

TRUTH: Bojārs on Diena: «What are you writing there? Lembergs called, cursing and tearing»

«What are you writing down there? Lembergs called, cursing and demanding to know what you’re doing,» said former chief editor of Diena Guntis Bojārs, recalling something Viesturs Koziols once said to him.

During a meeting of the parliamentary investigative committee on 27 November, Bojārs said that Aivars Lembergs, Ainārs Šlesers and Andris Šķēle all had a go at manipulating public opinions. He said: «Viesturs Koziols, who owned Diena newspaper shares, called me once to his office and said: ‘What are you writing down there? Lembergs called, cursing and demanding to know what you’re doing’.»

Andrejs Judins asked Bojārs: «My question is this – were there any attempts and desire to manipulate public opinions? How effective that was is a different story.»

Full article here

GROWTH: Reizniece-Ozola applies for Eurogroup president’s post

Latvian Finance Minister Dana Reizniece-Ozola has officially applied for the post of president of Eurogroup, as confirmed by the minister.

The minister submitted her application and motivation letter today. Names of all applicants will be published on 1 December. The vote will take place on Monday, 4 December.

Reizniece-Ozola says she decided to become a candidate because during talks with colleagues from other countries she heard many compliments to Latvia as an example for compliance with fiscal discipline. Also the finance minister is confident that representation in such an important institution would improve Baltic States’ representation on Europe’s political map.

Finance Minister says there are many challenges ahead in the finance field. This includes matters associated with economic and monetary union. «There is a lot left to do,» added Reizniece-Ozola.

She refrained from predicting the possible election results. The minister admits that the decision will likely be made by the largest parties represented in the European Parliament – European People’s Party and Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats.

Full article here

DECLINE: Some politicians involved in ‘oligarchs case’ remain active in Latvia’s political life

«Having worked intensely with materials of the oligarchs case, I have come to the conclusion that rumours about state capture attempts in Latvia are true. KNAB has created a very large case that includes materials that confirm suspicions about illegal acts, and also points to intentional abuse of official power by certain politicians,» Saeima deputy Andrejs Judins comments the situation.

The deputy says that it has been found out in the ongoing investigation that not all people whose activities who hold important information were interviewed by KNAB. Investigators did not use all opportunities available to them to gain evidence. State capture is not a term included in the Criminal Law. Nevertheless, it is associated with certain activities that are punishable by law.

He also adds that publication of certain documents does align with public interests. «This case is not just about what happened six years ago – it is also associated with modern state administration,» says Judins.

Full article here

OPINION: democracy cannot exist if the majority stays silent

«76 years ago this day marked one of the biggest tragedies in Latvia’s history, when Jewish residents in Latvia were mass-executed in Rumbula. In commemoration of victims, we must make sure something like that never happens again,» says member of European Parliament Artis Pabriks.

Full article here

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Ventspils opposition member: list of Lembergs’ committed crimes continues expanding

«During his rule in Ventspils, Aivars Lembergs performed so many illegal and criminal acts that investigation and judicial institutions still haven’t sorted things out,» said Ventspils City Council opposition member Valdis Kristovskis in an interview to BNN.

Traders association: cigarette contraband will increase dramatically

Latvian Traders Association is worried – by reducing availability of tobacco products in stores and other trade locations, the proportion of products sold ‘under the radar’ will only increase. And this is basically what amendments to the Law on Tobacco Products Circulation.

Problems in higher education funding cause concerns for education quality

There can be no certainty about the progression of Latvia’s higher education towards excellence, because no ambitious goals have been set up for its development so far, as concluded by State Audit after performing an assessment of the country’s education funding system.

Terrorism, not Russia considered larger threat in Estonia

Estonians believe terrorism is a larger threat to security than Russia's actions, stated Estonian Defence Minister Jüri Luik at the Tallinn’s International Centre for Defence and Security.

Digital TV case: trail from Malta leads all the way to Šķēle’s «clouds»

Malta files or the leaked materials from Malta’s Registry of Companies show that changes have been added to the ownership structure in Digital International Limited (DIL), which is involved in the so-called digital television lawsuit. The current owner of the company is an Estonian company, which had once owned properties of ex-Prime Minister of Latvia Andris Šķēle’s family, as reported by De Facto programme of LTV.

Austrian anti-immigration party to care for interior, defence and foreign affairs

National-conservative Austrian Freedom Party, which unlike other parties in power in Western Europe is clearly against immigration, is to take significant ministerial duties in the country’s new government.

Liepājas metalurgs may restart production in February 2018

Liepājas metalurgs may restart production in February 2018, said potentially insolvent KVV Liepājas metalurgs’ investor, said Israeli-based businessman Igor Shamis in an interview to LNT Top 10 News.

Ryanair pilots in talks not to strike before Christmas

Pilots of popular airline Ryanair have suspended plans to hold a day-long strike before Christmas after the Irish company agreed to recognise pilot trade unions for the first time.

Weather in Latvia to be cold and snowy this week

Atmospheric pressure will rise at the beginning of the week. Because of that, no precipitation is expected. Wind speed will be low and mist will remain in certain regions. On Tuesday, 19 December, a low atmospheric pressure area will pass through the country, bringing some rain, snow and wet snow, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology.

Week in Lithuania. Lithuanian doctors to offer voluntary test on alcohol habits

Lithuania's Health Minister Aurelijus Veryga has drafted a new scheme for residents attending health care institutions to fill out tests that would reveal whether the person's drinking habits signal a possible addiction.

Citadele Index: businessmen are more optimistic about economic growth

After a four-year gap, optimism has been noticed in all of Latvia’s business sectors. For the third consecutive quarter Citadele Index value exceeds 50 points. Businessmen are also positive about the country’s economy and their own finances, according to the final Citadele Index study for 2017.

Bank of Latvia increases GDP growth outlook to 4.7% for 2017

Bank of Latvia has decided in increase gross domestic product growth outlook from 4.2% to 4.7% for 2017, as reported by the bank’s governor Ilmārs Rimšēvičs.

Latvian residents’ opinion of government’s work remains negative

Latvian residents voiced the biggest degree of dissatisfaction about the development of the situation in Latvia and the work performed by the government. Although the previous evaluation of government’s work had increased by four points, it has since declined by two points, according to data from Baltic International Bank’s Latvian Barometer.

Eel fishing to be restricted in Baltic Sea for three months

European Union Fisheries Council has decided to restrict eel fishing for three months in 2018 in all waters, including the Baltic Sea. Although the World Wide Fund for Nature and environmental organization in Europe view it as a notable first step, these efforts are unlikely to have a major impact on the most important problem – eel population continues declining rapidly, as noted by WWF.

LCCI: increase of electricity bills for thousands of companies in unacceptable

Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) categorically opposes increasing electricity bills for the majority of small and medium-sized companies due to mandatory procurement component’s differentiation. The organization believes that this would basically introduce a new additional tax, making them even less competitive.

Head of Latvian Association of Regions to spend Christmas thinking on remaining in the party

Dissatisfied with multiple decisions made by Latvian Association of Regions (LAR), Riga City Council member Mārtiņš Bondars will spend the holiday thinking about his place in this political party, as he mentioned in his interview to Rīta panorama or LTV.

Estonian fund permitted to purchase several Latvia energy production companies

Latvian Competition Council has permitted Estonian fund to purchase several energy production and agricultural companies.

Meat processing giant sees room for growth in ready-to-eat foods

Consumption in the meat market segment of ready-to-eat foods is growing quickly, evaluated Finnish meat processing group HKScan that is planning to invest eight million euros in its factory in Estonia.

To fight for national minority schools, Russian representatives promise to hold a referendum

Defenders of Russian schools in Latvia promise to organize a referendum for autonomy of national minority schools, said co-chairman of Latvian Russians Association Miroslavs Mitrofanovs in regards to the transition to education only in Latvian language.

Tax payment process from capital growth to change in Latvia

As part of the tax reform, changes will be added to the Personal Income Tax Law starting from 1 January 2018. One of the changes is associated with payment and declaration of income from capital growth. The tax rate and the term for submission of declarations on income from capital growth will change next year.

Tusk deems EU migrant quotas ineffective as some states oppose taking in migrants

Donald Tusk, the head of the Council of the European Union and chairman of this week's EU summit, has evaluated that mandatory EU-wide quotas are ineffective and that there is a split between east and west as regards asylum policy.

Riga City Council’s 2018 budget – poorly planned or well-developed?

As the vote for the 2018 budget of Riga City Council draws near, representatives of all opposition parties say they will not support it as long as politicians of the ruling coalition continue viewing the city’s most important financial document as good and aimed at development.

Euro area economy has grown quicker than expected, European Central Bank estimated

Growth has been at a faster pace in the eurozone prompting the European Central Bank to raise its economic growth forecasts.

Weekends in Latvia expected to be snowy

A layer of snow will form in Latvia’s central and western regions that will remain until the middle of next week, as reported by State Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre.

Opinion: Latvia at risk of restricting healthcare to 300,000 people

Kustība Par! political party has sent a letter to Latvia’s President Raimonds Vējonis, asking him to return to the Saeima the recently approved law on healthcare funding legislative draft. According to the party, the law restricts healthcare for 300,000 people in Latvia.